Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The hugging of trees
A couple of things popped up over the past couple of weeks that made me scratch my head once again. One was the big '350' formation made of over 100 kayaks at the Inland Sea Society Kayak Symposium and the other seemingly unrelated event was the relisting of the gray wolf on the Endangered Species list.
The 350 formation was one of the highlights of the symposium for many people. 350.org is a group dedicated to reducing carbon in the atmosphere to the acceptable level of 350 ppm. There are a number 'actions' have been or will be executed over the next several months to bring more public awareness to the issue. Pulling this one off was a combination of hard work and pure luck. The formation was laid out using rejected webbing that CharlyR, head of the ISS, had scrounged . Field Marshal Gail Green orchestrated the setup, 10 boats at a time, a job much akin to herding cats. The weather cooperated by not blowing up the northeast wind, a wind that RonO and I used for some fine surfing, until two hours after the formation had been completed. It went perfectly but a couple of environmental purists in the crowd questioned the use of an evil, internal combustion powered, fossil fuel burning airplane to take pictures of the event.
On the wolf front, even though all of the state and federal agencies involved as well as noted wolf researchers Rolf Peterson, David Mech, and others agree that the Great Lakes population has recovered robustly and should be delisted, a number of interest groups won a lawsuit which plopped the wolves squarely back on the Endangered Species list.
Two "environmental insiders", Mike Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus wrote and published an essay, The Death of Environmentalism in 2005 and followed it up with a book, Breakthrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. In a nutshell, they contend that confrontational techniques and a strategy based upon restricting growth and development just doesn't seem to strike a chord with anyone, developing nations or the industrial ones. They argue for a new kind of development, one that takes ecological, economic, and social change into account and actually has an optimistic view of the future. Instead of the politics of fear and restriction, they suggest that we need to galvanize people and institution's creativity and enterprise to meet critical environmental challenges.
In other words, maybe if we can work together on some of this stuff, rather than flaunt and revel in our perceived ideological purity, there will be some significant progress. A prime example was two very different acquaintances that attended the Renewable Energy Fair in Steven's Point the weekend of the symposium. RangerMark, a guy who walks the walk on environmental issues and doesn't even own a soapbox and my cousin Joe, a pickup owner and Harley rider who's idea of fun is restoring old Ford Mustangs. I would have to say that the boys are about 180 degrees opposite politically but both took the long drive (in fossil fuel burning vehicles....likely solo....gasp!!) to explore possible alternatives. RM is working on implementing wind power at his place of employment and Joe is planning on building a flat plate pellet mill when he retires to use biomass to heat his house. A former colleague, the ZumbroFallsImpressionist, is passionate about land use and is a Sierra Club diehard. She helped negotiate a land use issue by reaching out to Ducks Unlimited, an organization not normally spoken of in the same breath as the Sierra Club. Different people with different backgrounds and philosophies finding that there is common ground on many of these problems.
Bottom line: we need to figure out how we can work together on issues like the two mentioned above and cut the ideological crap. The people whimpering about the airplane on the 350 formation probably drove their car up to Washburn with one or two people in it. The wolf huggers would probably think differently if they had a hobby farm in wolf country or their precious purebred mutt were attacked. Get off the soapbox, reach out to someone who it NOT like you, and let's git er done. As the Duke once said, "We're burnin' daylight".